FOX Soccer Exclusive
City turnaround aided by United's flaws
Welcome back to Five-A-Side – the spot to get caught up with all the chatter about the beautiful game.
Miss any of the action from the weekend? Need to get up to speed on what everybody is talking about? Don’t get left behind. Strap on your boots and get on the pitch to find out the five topics that have the biggest buzz this week.
I'm one of those guys that seeks and enjoys last minute drama, so there is a part of me that says “wouldn’t a City tie or a loss on this final day make things interesting?” But sadly, I don’t think it will happen. What City has shown us since their April loss at Arsenal has been massively impressive.
Since that game, and Mario Balotelli’s sending off, Roberto Mancini has turned it around. His men have proven that they are worthy title holders. They’ve been able to win games in impressive fashion and needed to dig deep in order to do it. That’s a sign of a true champion. If the manager of the year vote was based only on the last six weeks of the season, Mancini would easily be the hands down winner – with Wigan’s Roberto Martinez in second!
United has let it slip away. I think we saw some cracks appear in that 1-0 road loss at Wigan, but the foundation caved in with the 4-4 home tie versus Everton. When you have the title in your grasp and you cough up a two goal lead in the second half twice, it lets you know that all is not right with your club. It’s still been a brilliant year by them, and people are forgetting that they already have more points than last year — what they have done this season would have won it last year. But in the end, the defensive injuries were too much to overcome and that midfield offensive spark just evaporated on them.
When you do the math and look at the matchups, you have to say Bolton is doomed. I think what we witnessed last week at Reebok Stadium iced it. Up 2-0 at home with 15 minutes to play, and a chance to climb above the relegation line only to lose the lead late, says to me that you don’t belong with the “big boys.” But if there’s one thing we’ve seen this Barclays Premier League season is to expect the unexpected. I cannot help but feel bad for the club, and in particular Stuart Holden — he meant so much to that team and to have him gone for the whole season was such a big blow. It will be interesting to see how his recovery continues the next few months and who will be paying his wages next season.
Dempsey makes history, again
To become the first American to score fifty in the Premiership is a huge achievement. Clearly Clint Dempsey’s my American Player of the Year. Tim Howard had a solid year and Brad Friedel did well with Spurs, but this is a no brainer.
I’m proud of the guy. I couldn’t help but smile and cheer when we saw that beauty of a free kick at our studio; so much so that we were quick to tell our highlights crew to clip the goal right away. The big question is where he’ll play next season. I know his family is happy in London, so you have to give an advantage to Fulham or another London side. But he wants to play Champions League soccer and if you’re going to stay in the Premiership that reduces your potential homes, doesn’t it? (my ode to Steve McManaman)
So if you do the math, there is a certain outfit in North London that seems to fit the bill. If you believe the increasing backchannel chatter about Arsenal, keep in mind this is a transfer window and that all sorts of names will be floated around. This will undoubtedly be a great summer for him and American soccer down the road. The world is realizing that this country can produce players who can put the ball in the net at the rate that is demanded in top leagues. I said it a few weeks ago, it is time for his marketing crew to do their job and make this guy a star here in the United States.
GB Olympic team coach Stuart Pearce was with my colleague Warren Barton on Saturday, watching David Beckham with the LA Galaxy. Unfortunately for Becks, it wasn’t pretty. And I’m quoting Beckham, himself.
I still think he’s going to the Games, because Becks needs to remember HE'S BECKS! You don’t think the Queen will dial up Pearce and tell him to play this guy? I do. Beckham is frustrated with his play, but I think the greater frustration is with his teammates. Beckham still has the legs, the service, the fight and the intellect. He knows it, and Pearce knows it too. The Galaxy would be more than happy to have Beckham watching the Olympic games from Beverly Hills rather than running around London for a month. I wouldn’t bet on it and expect to see Beckham in London this summer.
A 15-year broadcast veteran, Rob Stone is the lead studio host for FOX Soccer Match Day, Goals on Sunday, and UEFA Champions League coverage. Follow him on Twitter @RobStoneONFOX.